Sunday, July 10, 2011

Well-Behaved Autists Rarely Make History: Why "Bad Autistics" Are Good Activists

It's not difficult to figure out how to be a "good" autistic. Just preface everything you say with "this only applies to me, of course" or "I'm quite high-functioning, but," apologize for existing. A good autistic answers every question, no matter how invasive, that a neurotypical person asks. A good autistic is honored that parents give them the time of day, praises said parents regardless of how they treat their kid, never questions NT supremacy or authority.

I am a bad autistic.

Bad autistics demand to be treated as human. We are not afraid to call people out on treating us-or their children-poorly. We say that asking us intensely personal questions is inappropriate. We are not honored by being "allowed" to be universal translators or self-narrating zoo exhibits. We don't apologetically state our experiences, all wrapped in disclaimers that no other freak like us will necessarily experience the same thing the way we did. Many of us reject functioning labels entirely. We do not praise parents for not drowning us in childhood; we know that is not praiseworthy.

We want and demand more than that. We want more for ourselves. We want more for the "good autistics, who have stumbled on a way to be bullied less. We want more for the children of the very parents who vilify us. Where a good autie is told "I hope my child grows up to be like you," I am told "if my child could argue like you do, I'd consider them cured." This is not a compliment-it is a silencing tactic.

I and other uppity auties I know have received death threats. Our diagnoses are constantly questions; really real autistics are apparently unable to have our own opinions on autism. We are called delusional, we are told we are bitter, angry, too emotionally connected to the issue to be rational. Knives have been pulled on activists. We are told that there is no way we can actually like who we are. We are vilified and maligned constantly.

It's not easy. Most of us have PTSD from childhood bullying and abuse-parents have told me, incidentally, that abusing me was acceptable and understandable. And yet, we persist in fighting the good fight.

Why? Because it's important, that's why. No one should treat anyone that way. They do it because it is socially acceptable. I want better for me. I want better for their children. I'm idealistic enough to think that they probably want better for their children. I want a world where "good autistics" are not afraid to contradict a parent. I want a world where my humanity is a given, not something I have to fight for. I want a world where people who bully and abuse people like me are seen as the monsters they are.

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. I'm a bad autistic and I intend to win.

19 comments:

Belinda the Nobody said...

All of this, forever.

Eric said...

Pre-fucking-cisely.

eateroftrees said...

Yes this. Very much.

(And I wrote a post with a similar kind of point, or at least a similar point on my mind, about a week ago here: http://eateroftrees.wordpress.com/2011/07/05/im-pretty-sure-im-an-unfriendly-autistic/ I have no idea if you saw it or not; it was also on Fuck Yeah Autism Spectrum)

Neurodivergent K said...

I saw it now. Good shit. Especially renaming undisabled people 'enabled'.

Heldenautie said...

My opinion on reformism: you stir up sugar in a pile of shit and it's reformed, but it's still a pile of shit.

Shain Neumeier said...

This made me happy to read. Sad at some of the content (especially people defending child abuse), but the message is awesome. Stuff like this makes it easier to keep up the motivation to fight the good fight.

juststimming said...

YES.

I applaud all of this. Some quotes that really stuck out to me:

"We are not honored by being "allowed" to be universal translators or self-narrating zoo exhibits."

I am not here to advise you on how to address masturbation with your child--especially if this "child" is actually a good friend of mine who has some trouble speaking and who assuredly did NOT give you permission to talk about her sex-life with me.

I want to be able to do things, or not do things, or struggle, or fail, without needing to explain why. I don't always know the answer myself. My life is not a performance for your benefit.

"We want more for ourselves. We want more for the "good autistics, ho have stumbled on a way to be bullied less. We want more for the children of the very parents who vilify us."

Oh god. Yes.


"Where a good autie is told "I hope my child grows up to be like you," I am told "if my child could argue like you do, I'd consider them cured." This is not a compliment-it is a silencing tactic."

This is EXACTLY the response I've been searching for for years. Thank you.


"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."


Chilling, accurate, and well said.

"I'm a bad autistic and I intend to win."

*applause*

Alex Plank said...

agreed.

CGregoryRunWithKids said...

I just found your blog on the A4cwsn list. So glad. I'm following so I can come back and fill my brain with your posts!

youneedacat said...

""Where a good autie is told "I hope my child grows up to be like you," I am told "if my child could argue like you do, I'd consider them cured." This is not a compliment-it is a silencing tactic.""

...meanwhile I've actually been told (in addition to the above), "I want to cure my child so they do not turn out like you."

Paula C. Durbin-Westby said...

Yep. Sorry, I am not using words much. Kind of on a hiatus from those. So, yep.

tdotrob said...

Thanks Paula for the Facebook link. I guess I'm straddling the fence. I actually created a blog specifically to answer questions, and I do state prominently that I don't claim to represent the entire population of autists. But I also have some PTSD, had epilepsy as a kid, don't apologize for who I am or was, can stand firm when the issue demands it, don't base my self-esteem on anyone else's opinion and have a completely selfish reason for answering invasive questions - explaining it to others gives me the framework and structure within which I can figure out for myself what exactly happened and why. I also happen to be recognized at the top of my field (big fish, small pond...tidepool, really) and have changed the world a bit through activism. Just activism focused on computer security and not, until recently, on autism.

So when I read the title and saw myself in your description of a "good" autistic I wondered if there was anything to it. Eventually I came to the conclusion that your position and mine are not mutually exclusive. We just have different approaches and constituencies, and what's more I think they are complementary. I think activists like me are needed in the mix because we'll have access to audiences, specific people and resources that you won't. Activists like you are needed in the mix for the same reason - you'll have access to audiences, specific people and resources that I won't. Together we reach a broader audience. As long as we aren't setting each other back where we overlap (and I didn't read anything here to suggest you feel that way) I think it's all good.

The other reason I personally need folks like you in the mix is to challenge me about my own motivations and methods. After considering your post I reaffirmed my position and will continue on with the Ask an Aspie project. But you know, every time I write a post I'll be looking for the apology, looking for the disclaimer and analyzing my position with your words in mind. Will it make me even more confrontational than I am now? We'll see, I guess.

Michael Scott Monje Jr said...

2 things:

1. Yes. We should all hope to be as bad as you, K.
2. @tdotrob -- You can still answer questions and be a "bad autistic". It's great to answer questions. The key difference in K's post is that the "good" ones don't set boundaries. If you set up a forum and dicate your own terms for the questions, you're doing it right. K's specifically railing against the people who allow others to trample their boundaries in order to "buy" acceptance.

I also tend to be a question taker, but you should see my rage mount the minute I hear the phrase "gastrointenstinal symptoms."

CC said...

This is a great post. I answer a lot of questions and am usually happy to do so - but I decide what's acceptable and what isn't. I decide what I share with people and what I don't. And I remain sure in the knowledge that while I don't mind educating those who mean well, I don't speak for everyone, and those who don't want to educate don't have to. Reading your posts always gives me a well-time reminder that I don't actually owe anybody fuck-all.

theamazinj said...

This makes me think of how many times Autists like us get bullied into silence by many people who don't understand what it means for everyone to have their own say and reaction. I feel every one's voice has validity in what they have to say. I like how you fearlessly stand up for what you have to say. It helps many other Autists be able to do the same. Although I feel we need to ensure that our interactions with others are listened to by the people who are supposed to listen, but cover their ears like at Autism Speaks. May be we need to react differently in person, so others will listen. However, I am starting to realize many people already have their minds made up even before we speak which is very frustrating. It's time for people on both sides of the argument to listen to each other and open their ears to what everyone has to say.

Andréa Raquel said...

Excellent post... I hope I'm never guilty of being a good one! I aim to open some eyes.

Bess said...

I want to be a bad one, too.

Bess said...

I want to be a bad one, too.

starfire8705 said...

i know this post is a couple years old, but i just would like to say i'm in full agreement here and using "Functioning Levels" IS a silencing tactic that irritates me to no end.